The Commission’s Fifth Report and Order on the Emergency Alert System (EAS) has now been published in the Federal Register, establishing the effective date of the rules as April 23rd.  We previously issued an Advisory, available here, summarizing the Order, which was adopted in January of this year.  This Fifth Report and Order did not impose new obligations on EAS Participants, but rather specified in detail how EAS Participants should implement the new Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standards.  In a nutshell, the Order states the manner in which EAS Participants—which include radio and television broadcast stations, cable systems, wireline video systems, wireless cable systems, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service providers, and satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers—must be able to receive alert messages formatted in the CAP. In particular, all EAS Participants are required to be able to receive CAP-formatted EAS alerts no later than June 30, 2012. CAP is an Internet-based system that allows for more robust messaging, including audio and video alerts, and links to other sources of information about emergency information, instead of the simple text-based alert codes that come from the current system.

With today’s publication in the Federal Register, the rules will become effective on April 23rd (30 days from today), which is also the deadline for filing Petitions for Reconsideration.  Some parties have already raised concerns about the Commission’s Order, in particular with the prohibition on the use of text-to-speech conversion technology on CAP receiving devices.  And if fact, it looks like FEMA has already filed a Petition seeking reconsideration of that very issue.  Specifically, FEMA’s Petition "recommends that the Commission reconsider the statement in CFR 47 § 11.56(a)(2) regarding exceptions to the ECIG Guidelines and delete the reference to ‘using text-to-speech technology’. While not explicitly endorsing or mandating use of text-to-speech technology this would allow use of text-to-speech technology to be a marketplace decision driven by the resources of local alerting officials and EAS Participants…"  Interested parties have until April 23rd to prepare and file petitions with the FCC seeking clarification or revision of the rules and policies established by the Order.